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Dowsett celebrating his UCI Hour World record // Photo: © Tino Pohlmann

08-07-2016, CANYON Journal Jaune

Preparing for a Grand Tour with Alex Dowsett

The Tour, the Vuelta and the Giro, the three grand tours represent the pinnacle of bicycle racing. Riders are plunged into three consecutive weeks of suffering – over mountains, through wind and rain, railing against injury and fatigue – all in pursuit of glory on the largest stage. While talk of the ‘GC’ and the yellow jersey generally floods the mainstream media, serious fans will know that simply a stage win at a grand tour is an accomplishment that most cyclists can only dream of.

A five time British National Time Trial Champion and former UCI Hour World Record holder, Movistar Team’s Alex Dowsett is a weapon against the clock. His success brought him to the 2013 Giro d’Italia where he won the time trial on stage 8 and helped his teammates to a second place finish in the team time trial on stage 2. While Alex is sidelined from this year’s Tour de France due to an injury this spring, he knows a thing or two about what it takes to prepare for cycling’s biggest races.

What is your favorite meal to eat while training hard?

I’m a massive chocoholic! At mid-ride stops it’s hard to avoid a cake, but quite often I’ll substitute it for a meal like poached eggs on toast or something similar - especially in the build up to a grand tour or a big target. In terms of evening meals, my mum makes a great and super healthy risotto with fish, eggs and vegetables. It’s tasty and I know it’s going to give me good energy on the bike the following day, but with minimal fat content.

What is the biggest day you will do during the lead up to a grand tour?

Generally five to six hours riding, but as you get closer to a grand tour the hours come down and intensity goes up to taper and be sharp. Using racing as preparation is super beneficial as well.

About how many hours a week will you spend in the saddle?

A big week will be 30 hours and an easy week is generally 15 to 20 hours. It’s all about finding a balance between endurance, intensity and rest.

What is the most elevation you will do in a ride?

I did a pre Tour de France fortnight in the Pyrenees and the Tourmalet* tops out at just above 2000m, so that was the highest. A 5 hour day there would include around 5000m of climbing – very tough days!

*The Col du Tourmalet is a famous ascent in the Tour de France.

Is there a specific interval or workout that you always like to do before a big race or a grand tour?

Time trials! I use my local club’s 10 mile time trials (something that’s really popular in the UK) to test my form. It’s basically a flat out 20 minute effort and even less if I’m going well!

Is there a specific place you like to train leading up to a big race or grand tour?

I spent a lot of time at Tri Sports Lanzarote this year preparing for the season. Lanzarote has some good climbs, but a lot of wind and some tough roads, so it was great for grand tour training. The atmosphere at where I stayed was great, really friendly.

How does training for a grand tour differ from training specifically for time trialing?

Time trialing is a sustained effort whereas in a grand tour you have to have much more versatility as well as a huge endurance base, so training is adapted to cope with that. However, I do find that each form of training does help the other discipline, so it’s not like whilst I train for a grand tour my time trialing suffers. Often I find it compliments it.

Thanks Alex!